Winter brings a lot of unique birding opportunities. It also happens to bring one of my favorite species down from its breeding grounds on the tundra. This would be the Short-eared Owl. Unlike a lot of owls, this owl is fairly easily seen. You do not even have to stay up late. The owl is crepuscular, which is a fancy word for saying that it is active at sunset and sunrise. With that in mind, I banked a few extra hours earlier this week, checked local time for sunset, and skipped out of work a little early to hit up a nearby spot where they are being seen.
The spot I visited in Tippecanoe County is about an hour and half from where I live, and I got there about an hour before sunset. The birds were already up. Several birds were out patrolling the fields with their long, flappy wingbeats. I pulled past the long row of cars there and found a spot to park. I hardly had time to get the camera out of the car and turn it on before the first owl flew past. They are a joy to see, and they have a lot of character. They are amazingly acrobatic. It is not uncommon to see a bird darting across the field, only to have it turn on a dime and pounce on something in the grass. Their true acrobatics are best seen when they are fighting. Two birds suddenly jetting straight into the air and twirling around each other. At the top, they will arc away and come back to make another swoop at each other. As much fun as they are to watch flying, I think my favorite thing about them is their call. or bark, as some refer to it. It does sound a lot like a puppy giving a drawn-out bark.
The owls tend to fly for a bit and then settle back down into the grass for a bit. I watched and shot until the sun hit the horizon. Not bad for the first outing of the year. I look forward to my next trip.
Thanks for reading,